Sunday, November 30, 2008

San Antonio Stroll

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Life's Changes:

Along the road to growing-up
I remember a spaniel pup.
The days passed from months to years.
At five I walk the path to school,
Playing, sharing, learning the rule.
My elders die, yet through my tears,
I continue on to manhood.
At eighteen, on the brink I stood;
New eyes see, as the future nears.

(Nove Otto poem: 9 lines 8 syllables per line aacbbcddc)

I turned eighteen while in boot camp. We may have noted it, I've just forgotten. If I'd been back in the 'burg in New York State, where, at the time, the drinking age was 18, you know I'd have celebrated in a tavern and gotten drunk for sure. It was a Monday and as such I can surmise that it was a day filled with classes, marching, pushups, cleaning and polishing. If I got together with Gerry after supper at the geedunk for a celebratory milkshake or not, I've no recollection.
Interesting how I can recall many of the events during that time but have zero recollection of my coming of age birthday. It happened in the latter half of boot training and I do remember some things from that time, yet, really only snippets and bits and pieces.

I remember going on 'liberty" one weekend; I went home with Bill Regan. While there, I remember his mother cutting her finger with a paring knife while peeling an apple in the kitchen. Bill and I were just leaving to go to a high school football game at his alma mater. Some time later that night we went to a house party at the home of one of Bill's friends. They (who ever they were?), probably at Bill's request, had fixed me up on a blind date. That kinda fizzled, since I don't have much recollection of that interaction. Probably because she spent the evening avoiding me. But the party wasn't a total loss; I spent the evening telling war stories with Bill and some of his friends. War stories being football exploits. ("Liberty" is like time off, a weekend pass so to speak. In the photo L to R.; Joe Barile, Bill Regan, Robert Messa, R. Groah, rel, and Richard Forte. We were on our way to the train station to embark on our first liberty.)

I remember that Gerry was on the recruit drill team. I remember a push-up contest with the first platoon leader from our sister company. He an I were both physical fitness nuts. The DI's stopped us after both company's members had collapsed trying to keep up with us. The contest was deemed a draw. I was on our tug of war team, but have forgotten if we won or not.
I remember graduation:

We graduated inside due to cold weather. I remember the pomp and ceremony and I can still recall that immense sense of pride of accomplishment, but more than that, my breast was swollen with pride in the knowledge that I was more than I'd ever been before, that I was a part of a huge team, something far greater than myself, most members of which I'd never meet, yet we shared a commonality of esprit de corps, of knowing that , our country had and was entrusting us with their safety. I was a Sailor in the United States Navy. I was a man, with a future. I was a grown up:
I was a veteran!

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next: Hospital Corps School

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Friday, November 28, 2008

In the fifth week or there about, we met with the career counselors to map out our future in the Navy. We would discuss our interests and what we would like to do and weigh that against the results of our aptitude tests and other test that we took batteries of up to this point in training.

C.C. (career counselor): “rel, you’ve done well in all your exams and you can go to any school the Navy offers.”

rel: “No kidding? What would you suggest?”

C.C.: “That’s up to you. What do you think you’d be interested in?”

rel: “I was thinking I’d like to work on airplanes, you know, like an airplane mechanic.”

C.C.: That sounds like a good choice rel. I’ll sign you up for “A” school in Aircraft maintenance school.”

rel: “Thank you sir. Oh, it won’t make any difference will it if I were color blind?”

C.C.: It sure would rel. If you were color blind you’d only be eligible for a couple of Navy rates. Your not, so why do you ask?”

Rel: “Well sir, I am color blind.”

The counselor picks up my health and physical exam folder and thumbs through it ‘til he finds the page he wants and shows it to me. I look where his finger is pointing and read normal color vision. He then asks me why I think I’m color blind.

Rel: “You know when you’re taking your physical and all that health screening stuff, and the put you in that room and turn off all the lights, and they explain that you are to look at the apparatus on the far wall, up about 6 or 7 feet. They tell you that behind the two openings, one atop the other are tree colored lights; I’m to tell what color light I see from top to bottom. It could be green, red, or red, green, or green white or white green and so on like that.”

C.C.: “Yes I know the test.”

rel: “Well, I got twenty-four out of twenty-six wrong.”

C.C.: “That’s odd.”

The counselor opens the lower desk drawer and takes out a book with plates on each page of multicolored dots. He shows me a circle and says, “what number, if any, do you see in the circle?”

rel: “Twelve”

C.C.: “OK, when I turn the pages you tell me what number you see in the circle.”

rel: “none, none, nothing, nope, nothing there, nope, no nothing.”

C.C.: “I’ll be darned, you are color blind. Boy oh boy, that puts a different look to things.”

rel: “Do I have to get out of the Navy?”

C.C.: “No, but your choices of “A” school have just been whittled down to a choice between, Boatswain’s mate, dental tech, or hospital corpsman.”

I think to myself, my pal Gerry is going to hospital corps school. If I can’t do what I want, I might as well go with him; at least we can be together.

Rel: “Sign me up for hospital corps school Chief. I’ll go with my friend.”

The die was cast: rel enters the medical field. Who’d thought colorblindness would be a blessing in disguise?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Thanksgivings
by Harriet Maxwell Converse

Translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered
that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun
that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank
all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being
of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,
the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard
through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music,
and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies
on this occasion


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In the first week of boot camp we were required to pass the Navy’s swim test. Actually it was a several separate tests. The first test required us to climb to a platform 10 feet above the pool. In pairs, we jumped off and into the deep end of the pool feet first.
After surfacing we had to swim the circumference of the pool. When we returned to the deep end we had to tread water for ten to twenty minutes, depending where in the line you were. Those who went in first had to tread water longer than those who jumped in last. Next test was to swim under water from one side of the pool to the other and back. Another test was to make a floatation device with you trousers. While treading water you had to remove your pants, tie the open ends of the legs into a knot near to the end as possible. Then you positioned the pants behind you, holding the waist up with the legs hang in the water. You then quickly pulled the pants up and over your head and pulling the waist down to the surface of the water in front of you, there by filling the legs with air. As long as you kept the legs wet they would hold the trapped air and be buoyant. We were required to float on this device for 5 minutes. Lastly we did a similar air trapping trick with our white sailor hat and made a smaller floatation device. If a person failed to pass these swim tests they would come to the pool every night, after chow, for swim lessons until they could pass the test. I passed first time. Treading water for 15 minutes after my perimeter swim was my punishment for thinking that if I went first off the tower I’d get it done and over with early.

You would probably think it odd for someone who is afraid of the water to join the U.S. Navy. It’s equally likely that you’d find it odd that someone, who grew up on the shores of a major river, would be afraid of the water. I’ve been thought odd more than once in my life. Yes it’s true; I grew up afraid of the water. I was OK with water that wasn’t over my head and the current was relatively mild. And, I joined the Navy; twice in fact.

When I was a young lad, or even younger than that I think, my dad took a Red Cross life saving course in swimming. His purpose, since he was already an accomplished recreational swimmer, was to teach me, his pride and joy and, at the time, only son, how to swim. He failed to teach me to swim but did teach me a terrible fear of the water.

My parents took me to Mr. Simpson’s camp to learn how to swim. Mr. Simpson was a local pharmacist and fuel oil customer of my dads, who ran a swimming lesson program during the summers at his camp along the St. Lawrence River. It would have been at about the same spot where Dr. DeTorres currently has his home on route #37. While my memories of that trip are very fuzzy, I’m reasonably sure that both mom and dad were there. I still remember the horrendous fear I felt when they let go of me out from shore and told me to swim in to the shore. I’m sure it wasn’t too far and I think I had some preliminary form of today’s arm swimmies on. Still, I recall the fear and screaming and uncontrollable crying emanating from my mouth. I remember a sense that my dad was pissed at my prissiness and I don’t think mom was too pleased either. From that point on whenever we went on picnics at the beach or to friends camps I always stayed in the shallows, never venturing out past waist high water.

When I started working on the farm with my friend Donny, I was around fourteen or so, and I decided that I was missing out on too much teen socialization. Growing up in a river community, much recreational activity centered on and around the river. Everyday after haying Donny and I would go down to Pythian beach, the public beach at that time. It is directly across from where the United Helpers Home is currently located on the route #68 extension where it meets Rt. #37. To help me gain confidence, I’d wear those flippers that scuba divers wear. With the added propulsion they provided I could swim quite well, and fast too I might add. Anyway, with that I conquered my fear somewhat, not entirely but some what. By the time I reached the summer after high school graduation I would go swimming off the oil docks, right at the city limits, without the aid of the fins and the water was in the 50 to 60 foot deep range to accommodate the oil tankers that would dock there to unload their cargo.

Remnants of my emotional fear of deep water are still present to this day. Through sheer will, I overcame my reluctance to shy away from deep water. I decided to join the Navy just to prove I could overcome and conquer my fears and not let them prevent me from wearing the Navy uniform.

My computer is acting in a very unprofessional way and so the part two of this post will be delayed.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008


As I moved through the weeks at boot camp, the first glimpses of what a veteran is started to seep in. Every task, each lesson, all athletic competition, was geared to mold us into sailors, promoting responsibility, good conduct, manners and morals.

We studied the UCMJ, and the principles of the Geneva Convention.

We had classes on fire fighting on ships and ashore. We learned about the responsible use and handling of fire arms, gunnery and ordinance, and how to defend against ABC warfare.

There were classes on leadership, knot tying, self improvement and advancement. We learned how to catch VD. Errr, no. We learned how to avoid contracting venereal disease. Team work was the emphasis at every juncture. Well except for venereal disease; for that you were on your own. But if you did get the dreaded drip or worse, your obligation to the rest of your shipmates was stressed: get immediate treatment!

Sailors are expected to present themselves in a clean cut manner with shined shoes, and a well fitted, pressed uniform. In special circumstances and with a superior's permission, a beard and or mustache could be allowed, but routinely, a clean shave, and short, neatly trimmed hair was the norm.

One of the ways uniform cleanliness and proper appearance was taught was at daily inspections:

Because the guidon (flag carrier) has to hold the flag, his cap is inverted on the fore finger of his left hand while the thumb of his right hand has hooked under an inverted the t-shirt collar. The rest of the squad places their hats over the barrel of their rifle (M1) and turn out their t-shirt with their left thumb. The inspectors are looking for grime, dirt and or sweat stains. Any thing but a bleached white appearance earned you and the company a "hit" or demerit. Believe me you could put on a perfectly clean white cap and shirt in the morning and by inspection time an hour or so later there would be some stain, especially if you were blessed with an oily complexion. We used to wear our t-shirts inside out to breakfast and line our cap's edges with toilet paper until just before marching to the grinder for inspection. We always returned to the barracks after breakfast and before turn out for inspection.

One of the exercises during ABC warfare class was to experience gas warfare. Commonly the gas used was tear gas. Any and everyone who'd gone through this before you had all sorts of hints on how to minimize the exposure and thereby the unpleasant effects. Too bad too sad Charlie. The DI's knew all those tricks and how to subvert them. You donned your gas mask outside the building where the tear gas was to be set off. You were strongly encouraged by your instructor to ensure a perfect fit before entering the building. Most everyone paid close attention to this demonstration of how to apply and fit properly, one's gas mask. Your group of twenty to thirty recruits enters the building, the door is closed and in a few minutes the tear gas pellets are set off inside and you can see the room filling up with a foggy mist. If you've properly applied your mask you still breath without difficulty or discomfort. If you have a poor fit, God have mercy on your soul. Once the room is sufficiently full of gas to satisfy the DI's, everyone is ordered to remove their mask. Of course before removing your mask you take a big deep breath and close your eyes. Mask off, and you're thinking cool man, I've got this beat. The door to the building does not open for egress for two minutes. It takes another two to three minutes to completely evacuate the building. Oh, did I forget to mention, you have to say your name rank and service number to the DI before you can leave the building. How long can you hold your breath?

Tomorrow: The two most import tests of my life. Not only for the Navy but for my entire future.

No silly, sit-ups isn't one of them!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Boot Camp
16 August-6 November 1963

Today you can find a boot camp for anything: for diet and exercise, computer programing , high school discipline, in 2001 there was a TV series titled Boot Camp, in 1980 there was a band called Boot camp, and at least one novel and one movie with the title Boot Camp.

Boot Camp is a term that came about in the time period of 1940-45, to describe training camp for military recruits; predominantly Marine Corps and Navy recruits. The U. S. Army refers to this training period as Basic training. Regardless the name, it's a defined period of intensive training in basic military comportment, duties and combat skills. Each branch of the services has there own particular field of expertise. The Navy's training, of course, is predominantly related to ships and seafaring. Being in top physical condition is a primary aim of all branches of the military and is the impetus for all the current offshoots mentioned above. No matter who you talk to, if they've ever been to a military boot camp, you'll be regaled with tales of how many push ups they were required to do while in training. Something like: I was walking down the street minding my own business and I pass this Sgt. and because he says I didn't salute him quickly enough says to me: drop and give me fifty. This type of scenario was more common than not and although we may have thought it punishment unjustly meted out by masochistic DI's (drill instructors), actually it was a concerted effort by the trainers to ensure our physical readiness for the rigors of combat.

Which branch of service has the most rigorous boot camp is the topic of many bar room conversations. Some camps are longer some of shorter duration. At the time I went it was a nine week program of intensive training in military etiquette, physical fitness, naval history and sea going skills necessary to thrive and survive aboard ship and in any and all of life's situations. Many of the skills and habits that I learned in boot camp have served me well throughout my life both in and out of the military.

We were greeted, upon arrival by either a RPOC (Recruit Petty Officer In Charge) or a 1st platoon leader from a company halfway through their training. Ushering us through the initial stages of accommodating to military life was their assignment for that segment of training that they were in, called service week.

First they gave us watch caps (black toques), a copy of the current Bluejacket's Manual ( Ours was the 1960's edition, fourth printing), and our company flag. They then organized us in to squads, and two platoons. After giving us preliminary instructions in how to march in step we were escorted to the barber shop, where each of us in turn was asked by the barber how we wanted our hair cut and then promptly sheered us like sheep at a wool gathering. This is the first step in military socialization every one will look alike. Thank God for those toques after our heads were shorn. The frigid winds off the great lakes in November were bone chilling. That's yours truly, rel, in the chair, getting a trim. This was actually our second trip to the barber for a touch-up. Notice the grown out hair on the on-lookers and the fact that they are in uniform.

Introduction to military life was a challenge but I didn't find it so rigorous as to be demoralizing. I personally enjoyed the discipline and teamwork involved in molding a sharp looking and acting recruit company. We learned early on the efficacy of working together to achieve a given goal such as a perfect score at inspection both on the grinder or in the barracks. Everyone had to pull their weight to make it happen. Hand washing our clothes, scrubbing the inside neckline of your t-shirt and the inner band of the white "dixie-cup" cover (hat) with a scrub brush and bleach so that they looked brand spanking new when you stood for inspection was a personal as well as a team (company) challenge.

Keeping us healthy entailed more than "good" food and exercise. There were a myriad of immunization shots necessary to prepare our immune systems for the rigors of foreign environments. So we ran or walked the gauntlet of the immunization gun, which, if you didn't flinch or pull away, was much more efficient and less painful than a bunch of needle injections. I don't recall anyone passing out but I'm sure it happened it always does. We did get one injection shortly after arrival to boot camp and that was a two cc (milliliter) injection of bicillin in the butt cheek. Now that my friends is something that you would rather not endure if you can help it. The shot itself is somewhat uncomfortable and the knot of drug that is deposited in your rump takes a while to dissipate. The next day my whole body felt as though I had over done it to the max in the weight lifting room.

Barracks life consisted of daily cleaning, mopping, waxing, and buffing the floor. I mean, you could eat off that floor anytime of the day or night. We studied, wrote letters, washed our clothes, and made sure our lockers (open) were totally neat and tidy. The open lockers were designed to take a person's sea bag contents and a few personal items and nothing more. Since space on board ship would be at a premium you had to learn compact, space efficiency. There was a separate day room adjacent to the barracks proper and this is where the company took breaks and kicked back to relax when the opportunity presented itself. It was here that I was introduced to the pleasurable and nearly unbreakable habit of smoking cigarettes. I could blame it on peer pressure but truly it was more of a wanting to be one of the "big " boys. And besides, mom and dad smoked so it must be OK no matter what those media naysayers were starting to reveal. I couched this, because my best bud, Gerry, never succumbed to the temptation of tobacco and chastised me mercilessly for taking up such a filthy habit.

Back later....................

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22 1963 CBS NEWS

Friday, November 21, 2008


Perusing photos, scrapbooks and memorabilia.
Refreshing memories.

Better day to come.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

From pulpit to pier.

Two recent high school graduates, 17 years old, standing in front of J.J. Newberry's on Ford Street contemplating their future.

Gerry and I were like brothers ever since that fist fight we greeted each other with in our freshman year. We were inseparable. On the football field he played left guard and I, right, pulling, guard. We were both linebackers on defense. On the wrestling team he wrestled at 135 lbs, and I weighed in at 165. They called us the two crazy Frenchman. We were comparable academically too; solid C students.

Jerry wanted to be a nurse, but like me his academic performance was a deterrent to his getting accepted into nursing school. We had two schools of nursing in our city; one at the state psychiatric hospital, which accepted male applicants, and a school at the general hospital, run by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, which accepted only female applicants. I've forgotten whether or not he applied to any schools of nursing other than State, but regardless he was adrift at this juncture in his life.

rel: "So, man, whatcha gonna do?"

Jer: "I'm gonna join the Marines."

rel: "Hmmm, I thought you wanted to be a nurse?"

Jer: "I'll be a medic."

rel: "Jer, just so you know, the Marines are a part of the Navy and they use the Navy medics, hospital corpsman. Why don't you come in the Navy with me. We could do the buddy plan. I'll talk to Mr. Pearson the recruiter in my reserve unit and I'm sure he'll be able to work something out for us."

Jer: " I'm not joining that rinky-dink, weekend warrior group you're in. No way man!"

rel: "What if I go regular Navy? Would you join up then?"

Jer: "Maybe."

rel: "Come on, we'll go down to the reserve center and see what Pearson has to say."

I'm pretty sure this was on a Monday, the 12th of August, 1963. We walked the three blocks down to the reserve center and approached Mr. Pearson. He was a petty officer 1st class, but I've forgotten what his specialty rating was. He was an accountant in the civilian world so probably Personnel, or yeoman.

Pearson explained the hospital corpsman program to Gerry and Gerry thought that fit the bill for him, so Jim took him to another room to do all the paper work to join and to take some tests.

When he came back we worked on the paper work to discharge me from the reserves and enlist me in the regular Navy. My discharge would take effect on the 14th after I was sworn in to the regular Navy at the NRS (Navy recruiting station) In Albany, NY.

We hightailed it home to break the news to our parents that we'd joined the Navy and we were leaving Wednesday for the recruiting station in Albany. In addition, since I'd already been issued a full navy wardrobe, I also had to pack my seabag. My mother was shocked speechless! Oh, I'm sure she had plenty to say, but the die was cast and there was no turning back. I asked her to call the Seminary and tell them I'd changed my mind. And so it was that my bosom buddy and I boarded the Greyhound bus in front of Joey's shoe repair shop, on Ford St., early on the morning of Wednesday the 14th of August, 1963, bound for Great Lakes Naval Training Center with an intermittent stop in Albany NY. I think my dad and both of Gerry's parents came to see us off.

Does anything ever run exactly according to plan? Of course not. After we arrive at the Navy recruiting Center in Albany and start the processing the first SNAFU presents itself. Because I had this reserve/regular, discharge/enlist deal, some how the fact that I already had a seabag full of navy issue uniforms also presented a problem. The up shot of this was that I had to stay over a night in Albany and Gerry left that evening. This would put us in different recruit companies at Great lakes which was not the buddy plan we'd signed up for but I'm sure you've heard horror stories about recruiters and their promises. This was actually a minor glitch and in retrospect was probably a good thing We saw each other quite a bit and being in different companies forced us to reach out and make new friends. Truth be known though, I never saw or heard from any of the 77 members of my company: 377, 1st regiment, 13th battalion after graduation.

I arrived on 16 August, 1963 at USNTC,GLKS,ILL., RECRUIT TRAINING:

Next: Boot camp

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On a spring day, I was attending mass at my church, Notre Dame. It might have been Easter, but I'm not sure. Human memory is inexact to say the least. There is some blending of facts, and seemingly erasure of facts, but even extrapolation and filling in the blank with totally false remembrances. I'm a little fuzzy on some of the particulars of this scenario. I'll refrain from filling in the blanks just to make the story read better or be more interesting.

I know I was still in school because remarks concerning what I'm going to relate here were written in my yearbook. I'd gone for my college interview to Watertown NY in the aftermath of a humongous snow storm. Folks had to put streamers or orange balls atop their car antennae so as to be visible to each other at intersections. So I'm guessing sometime in the spring.

I recall that I was sitting 1/3 the way back from the alter in the center section and I was by my self. That is to say, no friends or family had accompanied me to mass; the church was full otherwise.

The sermon that day was on vocations. I was going to say the lector was Father Gagnon, but I'm not really sure who was speaking. It makes a later story better if it was him, but I've simply forgotten, and it is of no matter for what follows.

The talk, for what ever reasons, had a strong impact on me, for I truly felt the call that morning. So much so, that immediately after mass I walked down to Wadham's Hall Seminary, which at that time was on Washington St. there in the city. It was probably eight to ten blocks from the church. I went in and talked to someone, telling them about the recent sermon I'd listened to concerning vocations and that I was interested in becoming a priest, and how could I go about doing that? I was given an application and a pencil and filled out the form then and there. When I arrived back home at the Oak Street bungalow and relayed to my mother what I had done, you would've thought she'd won the Irish Sweepstakes (we didn't have Lotto then).

Some time later, a few weeks, maybe less, I received a letter of acceptance telling me that classes started in the first week of the coming September. Hallelujah, Glory-be-to-God! My future career path was settled. Everyone was relieved: parents, school officials, classmates, and me. Even my girlfriend thought it was a good thing.

Oh yes, I did have a girlfriend and although we hadn't done "it", we'd done just about everything but "it."

This romantic and carnal relationship began weighing more and more heavily on my mind. So much so, that I discussed my dilemma with both Father Leduc and Father Gagnon.
"Father, when I become a priest, I'll have to give up women, right?"
Fr.: "rel, seminary is just like going to any college, you'll just be majoring in religion and philosophy from a catholic church point of view."

rel: "But at some point down this path, I'll be expected to swear off intimate contact with women?"

Fr.: "Once you commit to the priesthood, yes, you will take an oath of celibacy."

rel: Yeah, that's what I thought. I'm not sure I can do that."

Fr.: that decision is a long way off rel. A lot can change in that time. Give it a chance and see how you feel when the time comes."

rel: "Maybe. I'm not sure."

Fr.: "Pray to God for guidance rel."

I want to interject here a point that really doesn't fit into my story down the line anywhere convenient. Later, both Father Leduc and Father Gagnon left the church to get married. Father Leduc died in his late fifties a few years after his marriage.

Next: I join the Navy to see the world.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A dreamer bouncing off the walls of reality.

Senior year of high school was a great time, but as with everything in life there comes a time to pay the piper.

One of the things you do in your senior year is to get together with your guidance counselor and plot a plan for the future. The plan really starts back in junior high (7th & 8th grades). You take a battery of tests and the gurus in the guidance office evaluate the results, discuss it with your parents and then decide what "tract" you'll follow in high school.

The results of those tests for me, so said Mr. Getman and Mr. Blake, revealed an aptitude for journalism and nursing. I was stunned. The journalism thing was ok but nursing, "Those tests are bogus," I said. "Nursing is a girl's job, only queer guys go into nursing." That was that, I didn't put any credence in those tests. So what do I know, I'm only a kid. It was determined, therefore, that I would be put in the "regents tract" course of study which would lead to a regents diploma and was the ticket to college. It was further explained that an A average for the four years of high school would guarantee a college acceptance, but a B would be acceptable too.

I spent a number of days in the guidance office over the four years; usually at the end of each marking period. As a solid C student I was told, " you've got to do better rel, you can do better." That was all well and good if a fellow was inclined to study more diligently; I was not.

With senior year comes decision time: What do you want to do with your life? What colleges do you want to go to? Did you take your SAT's yet? How will you pay for college? Yadda, yadda, yadda. The nagging and pestering by the adults in my life was incessant. I know now as a parent, that they felt imbued with the task of molding a responsible individual. I was being forced to consider a life beyond today.
Mom asked for the umpteenth time:
"What do you want to do, what is it you think you'd enjoy doing for a career?"
I replied, "I'm going to be a catcher for the NY Yankees!"
Mom: "Really? Let's see, you're a senior, how many scouts have come to see you play? Have you gotten an offer you've failed to share with us?"
Me: "Well no, not yet, but I'm sure they'll come this season."
Mom; "This season will come to an end a week before graduation. If they don't show up, what's your plan for earning a living after graduation?"
Me: Shrugs shoulders.

Mom: Get you head out of the clouds son, come back to reality and act like you know something!"

Dad pipes up: "Get a job where you can use your brain instead of your back." Sage advice from a smart and talented man who discouraged me from getting my drivers license just so I wouldn't be tempted to make a living driving truck like he did.

Another trip to the guidance office and another conversation with Mr. Getman, led to a joint decision that perhaps I'd make a good coach/teacher. We concluded that I should apply to a state school to keep the costs down. At his suggestion, I sent applications to Brockport State and Cortland state, and a pie in the sky application to SU (Syracuse Univ.). He said, "maybe, if you get lucky, if they take pity on you, and if they suspect they won't have enough applicants to fill their freshman class, maybe they just might give you a chance. It's a long shot, but it's worth a try."

The only school to even grant me an interview was Brockport State. The gentleman very diplomatically said, "You've got to be kidding!"
Running smack dab in to reality was a shocking disappointment: no baseball contract, no college acceptance, what's a fellow to do?

I know I'm dragging this out, but I'm detailing this for my children and grand children, capiche?

I recall stopping to see Ernie Richardson with my mother one day, I was probably 12 or 13 at the time, at the ice house down at the State Hospital, for what I don't know. Ernie and dad were chums from the American Legion Post. But I've never forgotten this remark he directed to me: "Your a dreamer like your father." That pissed me off for some reason. I don't think he meant any harm. I'm sure he was just stating an observation. He might just as well have called me a sissy. He was right of course and I forgave him this perceived slight many years ago.

Next: application to seminary!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Having found my niche in the athletic arena, I was still in need of money; how could I afford to take my girl to the movies? I did odd jobs around the neighborhood: leaf raking, car washing, snow shoveling, grass mowing and the like. Still, these jobs were intermittent and didn't provide the steady flow of cash I wanted.

One of my neighborhood friends, Donny Powers, had been offered a job with a local farmer doing some haying during the summer. The farmer, Ernie Rufa, asked him to find a friend to help and Donny asked me. The paper route was replaced with farm labor.

Around the same time a family friend, Fr. Leduc, a priest at our church; Notre Dame, asked me if I'd be interested in singing at 0600 mass every weekday for a modest stipend. I'm certain now that this was a ploy to get me interested in the priest hood, and it almost worked, but hey, who cares, A dollar earned is a dollar earned. I was already singing in the Sunday choir with my dad, so his offer wasn't a total give-away; he knew I could carry a tune. A chance to sing and to get paid for it? You betcha Father! BTW, this gig also led to my being asked to sing at weddings, one of which was when my Employer Ernie, married Anne Kiah.

So there you have it; my high school years consisted of: singing 0600 mass Mon.-Fri., football, wrestling, and baseball, farm work on weekends and through the summers. I did study intermittently, because a passing grade point average was required on a weekly basis to be eligible to play in athletic competitions every week.

Beginning my senior year of high school I heard about a program available through the local Naval Reserve unit. High school students, with their parent's permission, could enlist in the Navy reserve. They would attend meetings at the local reserve center one weekend a month, and go to a 2 week boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois during the summer. At some point over the next 6 years you'd be required to do a 2 year active duty hitch.

This opportunity appealed to me on two levels: The Navy paid you real money for attending the meetings. Also, in my mind, being a sailor carried a pretty impressive image to heighten my stature with the ladies...... Two birds, one stone; money, girls! How could a guy lose?
October 1st, 1962 I enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Yes my senior year was busy; school/studies, singing, athletics, odd jobs, farm labor, Navy obligations and lastly, there was even some time for girls and dating.
I say lastly, but as we all know, the girl thing was really at the top of my priorities, (remember that word from the last post? testosterone.). Money from gainful employment, athletic prowess, and a Navy uniform; for what,if not to impress the ladies?

Listen here:

Next: A dreamer bounching off the walls of reality.